When you are considering the sale of your home, it’s never too early to start planning what you need to do to get your home into it’s best condition for the market. Getting your home ready to sell takes some research and planning to make sure you get the highest return on your investment.
Nobody wants to waste time and money!
In a buyer’s market, the competition can be high, so planning well is important. Before you put your house on the market, you want to make sure your house measures up to similar homes in your market. But even in a seller’s market, you want to maximize your home’s value and appeal to get the highest and best on the sale. Is it a buyer’s market or a seller’s market? It makes a difference in the selling strategy.
Before the home goes on the market, there are two major considerations a seller needs to understand: 1) how to get your home in its best condition, both inside and out, and 2) how to price the home effectively. Getting your home ready for the market can take some time, depending on the condition.
Table of Contents
- 🏡 What Should You Do to Get Your House Ready to Sell?
- 💻 Do Your Research on Home Renovations and Repairs
- 👪 Learn What Today’s Home Buyers Want
- ‼️ Emphasize the Positive
- ⚖Consider Return-On-Investment
- 🌻 Update Outside the House – Curb Appeal
- 👣 Five Steps to Captivate Buyers with Curb Appeal
- 🛏 Preparing the Inside of the Home for a Quick Sale
- ✨ Clean, Clean and Clean Some More
- 🛠 Make all Necessary Home Repairs
- 🛍 Most Important Home Updates
- 💗 Staging – Throw A Wide Net
- 💲 The Final Step: Pricing
- 📚 Additional Reading:
🏡 What Should You Do to Get Your House Ready to Sell?
Many sellers can get overwhelmed with what it takes to get their home ready to sell. I’ve seen homeowners who do the least possible and I’ve seen those that break the bank in over-improvements that don’t pay off. Somewhere in the middle is where most sellers find success.
Of course, this all depends on your market. If you are in a competitive market, you may need to do more upgrades to make your home stand out amidst the competition. You won’t know the demands of your particular area and price range without doing some research.
💻 Do Your Research on Home Renovations and Repairs
Before dropping a bundle into repairs and renovations that might or might not pay off, a seller would be wise to do their research. First, a home needs to be in keeping with the neighborhood standard to compete in the local market. If the average home in your price-range and area doesn’t have a lot of expensive upgrades, like granite countertops and high-end appliances, then you’d be wasting your money to do a lot of high-end upgrades.
Vice-versa, if you skimp on the upgrades that every house around you has, your neighbors will appreciate you for helping them to sell their house before yours. You can skimp, but just don’t expect to get the same amount for your home.
This is one of the reasons why you need to consult an experienced local listing agent. They are in the local market, 365 days a year, seeing the homes that are listed. They will know your competition.
It’s always best to consult a Realtor® weeks or even months before you want to list your home. They can help you spend your dollars, time and effort wisely.
👪 Learn What Today’s Home Buyers Want
A lot of energy is spent on research about what buyers are looking for these days. Realtor Magazine published a recent article listing the top ten wish-list of today’s buyers:
- Large kitchens with islands
- Energy efficiency, including energy-efficient appliances, super insulation, and high-efficiency windows.
- Home offices
- Main-floor master suite
- Outdoor living space
- Adequate Storage
- Soaking tub in the master suite and/or an oversize shower with a seating area
- Stone and brick exteriors rather than stucco or vinyl
- Community walking paths and playgrounds
- Two-car garages, but three-car garages are even more desirable
More than likely, your home won’t have all these features. No home is perfect. If you have any of these coveted features, make sure they are clean, in great shape and that your staging makes the best features stand out.
‼️ Emphasize the Positive
If you have any of these features in your home, emphasize them in your marketing. If you don’t have some of these features, don’t sweat it, this is a “wish-list”, just keep emphasizing the positives.
Don’t spend a lot of time and money creating something that’s not there, spend your time and efforts making what you have look its best.
If you find that you need to do some investing in your home, do your research.
Part of your research should be analyzing what your return on investment (ROI) can be for various upgrades and repairs. Each year, Remodeling puts out a Cost Vs. Repair evaluation for nine regions of the country. Frederick Maryland is considered part of the Washington D.C. Metro area. When studying these reports, home owners will see that some repairs and improvements have a higher ROI than others.
Incidentally, the highest rate of return most years is something very simple… replacing the front door. Here are some other suggestions on the most important improvements to get a good return on your investment.
🌻 Update Outside the House – Curb Appeal
Sometimes sellers grow accustomed to the look of their homes. It can be helpful to have another opinion when trying to decide what projects to take on and how much work is needed when the subject of curb appeal comes up.
Remember that more than 95% of today’s buyers are looking on various real estate websites. You want to make sure that photos of your home grab buyers interest. First impressions matter in photos as well as in real life. Make sure your curb appeal is on point in your photos. [professional photography makes a huge difference!]
The psychology behind great curb appeal is really pretty simple:
As a seller, you want your home to be attractive, appealing, and welcoming. Most of the time, achieving that can be very simple. You want to accentuate positives and minimize negatives.
The negatives you want to minimize are also simple: You don’t want the buyer to say to themselves, There’s one more thing I’m going to have to do if I buy this house.”
That’s a comment a seller never wants to generate from the buyer. They should rather hear, “I love this house, I could just move right in!”
So how do you get the second comment?
👣 Five Steps to Captivate Buyers with Curb Appeal
1. Clean up and declutter. Most of the work is usually in this category.
- Trim back trees, bushes, sidewalk edges and thin out overgrown beds. (Think of it as a haircut, although more of a trim, not a drastic head-shave:) You don’t want the buyer to say, wow, I’m going to have to trim all this back when I move in.
- Rent, borrow or buy a power washer and clean up sidewalks, porches, decks and siding. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a clean surface makes.
- Make sure the grass stays mowed while your home is on the market.
- A fresh coat of paint or stain. Any wood should be freshly cleaned and stained. Again, the buyer will notice and count it as a positive that they won’t have to add it to their list of things to do after moving in. As this list grows, so does the dollar amount a buyer subtracts from their offer!
- The front door and trim is a first impression. You want it to say, The owners love this house and take good care of it.”
- Make sure shutters have been repaired if needed and have a fresh coat of paint. Tired shutters will make all your other efforts look drab.
- The door handle and lighting should be newer and in keeping with the style of the house. Don’t be afraid to light up the entryway for those night-time showings.
3. Before you do anything else…paint the front door! It’s amazing how a fresh clean coat of paint on the door and trim will make a huge difference. First impressions count.
4. Create a focal point at the front door. If you have room for seating, add a cozy chair or a bench. Add a wreath of flowers on the door. The idea is to create a sense of welcome. If the door is dated, paint it or replace it.
5. Add color with flowers. If you don’t have space to plant some annuals, then put out pots of colorful flowers around the entryway. Colorful flowers are a delight to the eyes and senses, and they say a big “Hello”.
6. Repair any problems with driveways, sidewalks or brick or stone edging. Patch and seal for a finished look.
Pin it for later reading:
Curb Appeal that says, "Welcome Home!"
None of these projects have to be expensive and exhausting. Curb appeal often just takes a little elbow grease. And make sure you don’t overdo the colors or the flowers, you don’t want to overwhelm your visitors, you just want to make them feel welcome. Welcome enough to want to stay!
🛏 Preparing the Inside of the Home for a Quick Sale
Many years ago, after spending a wonderful, yet intensive weekend with some relocation clients, after criss-cossing Frederick County for 3 days, seeing a dozen homes in all sorts of conditions, and seeing first-hand our buyer’s responses, I came up with some tips for Frederick home sellers trying to get their homes ready to sell.
I’d like to talk more about the psychology behind the tips, actually. You can find great preparation and staging tips all over the internet, but the real value is in getting an understanding of the mind of a buyer. Seeing through their eyes will be very helpful to you when you are staging your Frederick home for sale.
✨ Clean, Clean and Clean Some More
The most important thing that sellers need to keep in mind is that in a buyer’s market, the inventory is on the high side. That means there is more competition.
Sellers need to realize that the best-looking and best-priced homes are the ones that will sell. It’s really that simple. Your home must look the best it can. You have to be vigilant about Dirt and Clutter.
- When buyers see dirt, the natural assumption is, “If they can’t clean their house for a showing, I wonder what other deferred maintenance issues I might have to deal with?” In their mind, a dirty house is not a house that has been cared for.
- A note to pet owners: some folks are allergic, so you have to do everything you can to minimize pet dander.
- Shampoo or replace carpet. If it is permanently stained, worn, or dated, replace it. Get a neutral shade, “Tea Stain” is our favorite, in an affordable grade; it needn’t be top-of-the line. [click on the image for carpet cleaning tips –>]
- Clutter is also something that absolutely must be tackled. Buyers have a hard time seeing themselves and their stuff in your house, if they can’t see past the clutter. Clutter also makes the space look smaller than it is. Here’s my thought: You’re moving anyway, so why not pack up most of your stuff and live lightly for a few weeks?
- Don’t forget about odors. Because we get used to the smells that are familiar, like cooking spices, or athletic gear, it’s always a good idea to invite a friend over to get an opinion from a fresh nose, so to speak. You want to eliminate odors that are pungent, even if they smell good, like perfume, in favor of fresh, clean and mild.
- Since we’re talking about odors, you also want to make sure you clean in advance of the showings and allow time for the odor of your cleaners to dissipate. The chemical smells can be offensive.
Here’s a great list of natural cleaning supplies that will leave a more natural scent:
🛠 Make all Necessary Home Repairs
- Repair the small things. These items can suggest to a potential buyer that the home is not well-cared for. Fix loose handles, replace broken items…even one broken item will make people wonder, “What else is broken?”
- Repair electrical or plumbing problems. They will come up in a home inspection, so you might as well do the work before you put the house on the market. Replace or repair leaky faucets. Make sure all outlets are working properly, and make sure drains are clear.
- Repair damaged flooring. If the hardwoods are scratched or sun-bleached, have them refinished. If ceramic tiles are cracked, replace them. Make sure grout is clean and not cracked. If vinyl or linoleum is worn, damaged, or dated, replace it. Think about a material that is more contemporary. There are many affordable laminates on the market that look great and wear very well.
- Sometimes you don’t have time or resources for a major home overhaul. “What are the most important things to do before selling?”
🛍 Most Important Home Updates
Update kitchens and baths, if necessary. In our part of the Country, kitchens and baths sell homes. Buyers today are used to granite countertops, upgraded appliances, stainless steel or other popular metals.
Make sure that your home’s kitchens and baths are comparable to the homes on the market that are like yours and in your price range. Replace old fixtures, cracked sinks or yellowed and stained vinyl. Replace old medicine cabinets, and mirrors. Make sure grout is clean and re-grout where necessary. Replace worn caulk.
- The best way to increase your home value? Maintain and repair your home throughout the time you own it.
Take a good look at your lighting fixtures. You will want to replace the old 80’s vintage brass fixtures with something a little more updated. A trip to the local big box home improvement store will get you great fixtures at reasonable costs. Consider some ideas from my Pinterest Board, “Fixtures & Finishes for Home Decorating Trends”:
Consider using a “signature” piece in the best room of your home, or the best feature…to draw some attention and show it off. It could be:
- a light fixture, to draw the eyes up and show off a spacious room
- a work of art, to bring a focal point
- a beautiful fireplace screen or mantle arrangement
- a soothing water feature on your custom deck [remember, outdoor rooms add living space…so show them off]
- a stunning piece of furniture to bring attention to a special space,
- or window treatments, to show off the light from great windows
When you have done all the updates, remember, you have just made your home salable. You’ve done what you need to do to get your house market ready. Don’t expect to get every penny out of your updates. For an idea about Return on Investment, read this yearly Cost Vs. Value. Be sure to check the report for the Washington D.C. Metro area.
💗 Staging – Throw A Wide Net
As a seller, you are trying to throw as wide a net as possible, and appeal to as many buyers as you can. That is the psychology behind neutralizing and de-personalizing your decor. Not to the point of boring, but to the point of tasteful and neutral. You have to change your thinking from “this house is my home and hearth”, to “this house is a commodity that I am trying to sell.”
Assume that buyers have no imagination. They can’t see past the gold velvet drapes in the dining room. Sure they looked great with your Queen Anne dining set, but most buyers probably don’t have your exact set. The average home buyer probably likes Pottery Barn or even Ikea, who knows. The point is, they have to see themselves in your home.
If you have some great features, don’t be shy about highlighting them, especially if they were the features that sold you on the house. Do you have a great view? Then open the window coverings, and orient the furniture to emphasize the view. Do you have a hot tub? By all means, turn it on, uncover it and put out the margarita glasses.
Suggest to buyers how they will enjoy your home. Do you have a gorgeous master bath? Put out the candles and Champagne glasses and suggest romance to your buyers. Remember, you’re assuming that they have no imagination, so you need to give them every reason to love your home.
For so many years, we’ve watched buyers in the decision-making process. No matter how analytical they are when they start the process, eventually, they make decisions based largely on emotion.
They connect emotionally with a house and they start to see themselves making it their home.
Find ways to stage your home so that you Accentuate the Positive and Minimize the Negative. Help buyers fall in love with your home.
💲 The Final Step: Pricing
Pricing correctly from the beginning is crucial. Price your house to sell, and you will.
The third item to consider when selling your home is pricing. A seller needs to price it accurately from the start. We see it so often, when a seller prices their home high, for many unrealistic reasons, they end up worse off in the long run. They end up selling their neighbor’s homes, then settling for a low-ball offer after too many months on the market.
Here are some principles that will help sellers understand the why’s and how’s of pricing their home effectively:
1. First of all, a seller must detach themselves emotionally from their home. They need to think of it as a commodity, not their nest of memories and comforts. Stop calling it your home, and start calling it a house.
2. A seller needs to get a clear picture of what homes like theirs are selling for. Find a Realtor® who understands the market and can give you statistics of the homes sold in the previous 3 – 6 months. Many sellers mistakenly focus on the list prices of homes that are currently on the market. This statistic only tells us what price homes are NOT selling for.
3. A seller needs to understand there is a strategy for each price range. A strategy for selling to first-time buyers will be different than the strategy used for move-up buyers.
4. A seller needs to have current statistics about the average percent of sales price compared to list price. They also need to know the average days on market in their price range and area.
5. The first 30 days on the market will bring in the most buyer interest and showings. Statistics show that if a home is priced right and in good condition, they should get 1 offer for every 10 showings. If they don’t get an offer, they are priced too high.
6. After too much time on the market, a home will get a negative stigma in the minds of buyers. The seller should count on getting low-ball offers.
7. Price reductions are likely as a seller tries to find the real market value. It’s important that sellers stay open-minded about finding that value and remember: The home is truly worth what a buyer is willing to pay.
📚 Additional Reading:
- A super article on the types of home repairs that get the best return on investment, from real estate pro Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts. Bill covers the many factors that can affect the value of different home repairs.
- Sharon Paxson, Newport Beach California real estate agent, addresses the topic of curb appeal. Here are eight easy steps to improve your home’s curb appeal.
- John Cunningham, real estate agent in Phoenix Arizona, has put together a handy seasonal list of home maintenance tasks for homeowners. He wisely advises homeowners to have a home maintenance checklist that will serve as your guide throughout the time you own your home.
- Luke Skar, over at Real Estate Blogging Community, has a super helpful article for those who prefer DIY home repair. Tackling these 10 home maintenance tasks throughout the year will keep a homeowner from running into an eventual expensive disaster.
- One of the important aspects of marketing your home is professional photography. Here are some steps to prepare your home for real estate photography. Written by Eileen Anderson, real estate agent in central Connecticut.
If you have questions about preparing your home for the real estate market, give us a call. We’re happy to come and give you an assessment, and advice about where to spend your efforts on repairs and updates.
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How to get your home ready to sell
- Do your research on home renovations and repairs.
Learn what today’s home buyers are looking for.
- Consider return on investment.
Your research should include analyzing what your return on investment should be for various upgrades and repairs. Determine which ones are worth doing and which aren’t.
- Update the outside of the home…curb appeal matters.
Remember that 95% of today’s home buyers will see your home online. Make the first impressions count in your photography as well as in real life.
- Prepare the inside of your home.
Give it a good cleaning! Make necessary repairs. Make appropriate updates where necessary. Don’t overdo it.
- Staging your home will captivate the right buyers.
Good staging will throw a wide net.
- The final and yet important step: Price your home to sell for your market.
Use an experienced REALTOR to help you determine the market value for your home.